The Usmanov Mosque is a vivid example of eclectic religious architecture: it was built by Russian craftsmen who combined imperial and oriental styles and even designed the minaret in authentic Bulgar style. Many people in Kazan referred to it as the “Red” Mosque and its beauty surpassed all religious differences.
The Usmanov Mosque is known by many names: Sultan, Red, Ziganshi baya and The Eighth Mosque.
It was built in 1868 next to the first Tatar cemetery where the village market is now located. The mosque was built by the architect, Pyotr Romanov who also designed the Apanaev Mosque and two madrassa in Kazan. The funds for the construction of the mosque were provided by Zigansha Usmanov, a merchant of the first guild. In his honour the Usmanov parish was named after him.
Usmanov was of peasant origin and made his living by selling raw furs. He managed a soap
factory, textile factory and tenement houses. In other words, he was one of the richest people in the city.
Shigabutdin Mardzhani described him that way: “May Allah be my witness, how many good deeds has this man done!” The celebrated Tatar theologian and educator determined the precise direction of Mecca at the beginning of construction and at the opening of the Mosque he was the first cleric to recite namaz prayers in the Usmanov Mosque. The mosque also had a madrassa called Usmania where amongst other subjects the Russian language was also taught.
Over his life time Zigansha did much to help the Tatars of Kazan: everyone whom he had helped in words and deeds gathered at his funeral. After his death the support of the mosque was taken over by his brothers Tagir and Mukhametshakir, and the merchant, Mukhametsadyk Galikeev. At the end of the 19th century, his son Sultan Abdulgaziz took over the upkeep, and the mosque became Sultan.
It was built next to the Tihvinskaya Orthodox church, and is a rare occasion when a Muslim mosque and Christian church have stood in such close proximity. The Bishop of Kazan Anthony was actually extremely upset and wrote an official complaint, stating that the mosque was “a clear affront to dignity” of the Orthodox community.
He was clearly over-dramatising the case: the location of the mosque in fact enabled cultural dialogue. It is completely possible that one of the mosque’s names, Red, was given to it in the Russian area of the city. The name had nothing to do with the colour of its walls, which had been green since time immemorial: the Russian word for Red (“krasniy”) meant “beautiful”.
This epithet became deservedly synonymous with the mosque.
At that time Tatar religious buildings were built by Russian architects. They studied the existing Eastern religious buildings and brought certain elements of Western and Russian architecture into their projects. The Usmanov Mosque by Romanov was no exception. The main building is designed in Roman style; the simplicity and solidity of its forms was inspired by early mediaeval French buildings. Moreover, the minaret is one of the rare examples of buildings in the style of the Golden Horde which were preserved in their authentic style only in Bolgar and Kasimov. Visually it is separate from the building and is not attached to the roof as is traditionally accepted. After the closure of the mosque in 1931, the minaret was demolished. In 1981, the mosque building was taken under state protection as an architectural monument. It was restored immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The present-day minaret appeared in its former location in 1990, and in 1994 the mosque was returned to the faithful, and the parishioners themselves carried out the entire decoration and refurbishment of the interiors.